Harbor Apartments in Bradenton hit renovation snag

BRADENTON -- A building long considered a blemish on the redevelopment efforts sweeping the waterfront along downtown Bradenton will remain vacant until the new owner makes extensive plumbing and electrical repairs, city officials say.

The reopening of the Harbor Apartments, also known as the Carver Apartments, has been delayed because the electrical and plumbing systems have not been brought up to city code.

TCTL Properties LLC purchased the 24-unit apartment complex at 301 Seventh St. W. last May from Sabal Palm Bank for about $1.5 million after the previous owner let the 2.7-acre tract slip into foreclosure, court documents show.

The group promised extensive improvements and beautification efforts. Walls have been painted, doors fixed and windows replaced, but the site is still sitting vacant -- guarded by caution tape and "No Trespassing" signs.

"When we met with them, we told them they would have to bring everything up to full code," Bradenton Planning Director Tim Polk said. "We're not going to compromise and approve something that's substandard."

Built in 1960, the apartment complex once housed upscale tenants before a massive dredging project pushed the site into disrepair for nearly three decades.

It was purchased in 1998 by Nashville developer Tom Carver, who refurbished the units.

Carver subsequently sold the property for $4 million to Enterprise Associates of Florida -- an out-of-town developer with plans to raze the existing building to make way for 21-story towers, a grocery store and upscale condos. But the company halted its ambitious plans when

the economy crumbled, records show.

New owners TCTL Properties, which plans to refurbish the existing building and rent the apartments for $650 to $750 a month, haven't been cleared to reopen by the city.

In fact, the company hasn't met with Polk for seven months, he said.

That's largely due to the extensive amount of repair needed to the plumbing and electrical systems, which were ransacked by vandals, drug dealers and squatters formerly living there.

The underlying plan remains unchanged, although a new timetable for reopening has not been set, said Thomas Santilli, managing member of TCTL Properties.

"Someone is eventually going to tear all of that down and put up high-rises," Santilli said Wednesday. "But that's not me. My idea was to buy it, rent it out to middle-class families, and sell it one day when things improve."

That plan made a side turn when another potential buyer reached out to Santilli earlier this year, but the deal never came to fruition.

Management changes within the property group also led to some delays, Santilli said.

"We're back at it now," he said. "We're just trying to be judicious."

The property first caught Santilli's eye because of the proximity to the Manatee River, and the $6.2 million Riverwalk project nearby.

But that's the same reason area officials hope the apartments soon get a finished face lift.

"It's been offline for a long time, but they're doing a good job keeping it clean and cutting the grass," Polk said. "It looks a lot better now than it did a year ago."

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman